Steve VanRoekel is joining the U.S. Agency for International Development as its chief innovation officer to help with the administration’s response to the Ebola virus in Africa.
VanRoekel, the federal chief information officer, confirmed his move on Twitter. Politico first reported VanRoekel’s decision to leave the Office of Management and Budget and work for USAID.
An administration official said VanRoekel will advise the agency’s senior leadership on using technology and data to help coordinate the government’s response to the Ebola outbreak.
“We are thrilled to welcome Steve back to USAID at a critical time,” said Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID administrator, in a statement. “While serving as chief information officer of the United States, Steve transformed the way the federal government embraces innovation, and enabled USAID to become more efficient and effective. With his unique talents and expertise, Steve will help us harness technologies like open data and mobile platforms to reach communities and households with powerful and life-saving information to help stop the devastating Ebola outbreak.”
The official said VanRoekel brings “unique talents and experiences” to a problem that involves people, culture, logistics and the need to understand data in real time to address gaps, trends and ensure successful outcomes.
Lisa Schlosser, the deputy administrator in the Office of E-Government and IT, will be the interim CIO. The official said the White House wants to swiftly fill the federal CIO position. This person will work closely with other federal senior leaders, including new Federal Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith.
VanRoekel has been federal CIO since August 2011 after serving previously at USAID and the Federal Communications Commission.
“When taking the job of U.S. chief information officer, my goal was to help move federal IT forward into the 21st Century and to bring technology and innovation to bear to improve IT effectiveness and efficiency. I am proud of the work and the legacy we will leave behind, from launching PortfolioStat to drive a new approach to IT management, the government’s landmark open data policy to drive economic value, the work we did to shape the mobile ecosystem and cloud computing, and the culmination of our work in the launch of the new Digital Service, we have made incredible strides that will benefit Americans today and into the future,” VanRoekel said in a statement. “So it is with that same spirit of bringing innovation and technology to bear to solve our most difficult problems, that I am excited to join USAID’s leadership to help stop the Ebola outbreak. Technology is not the solution to this extremely difficult task but it will be a part of the solution and I look forward to partnering with our federal agencies, non-profit organizations and private sector tech communities to help accelerate this effort.”
Beth Cobert, OMB’s deputy director for management, said VanRoekel’s move to USAID is a big loss for her organization, but he’s the most qualified to take on this issue.
VanRoekel’s move back to USAID to work on a specific crisis such as Ebola isn’t surprising, according to the administration official. During his first stint at the agency, he led the digital communications efforts in the government’s response to the 2011 crisis in the Horn of Africa.
VanRoekel has been among the loudest voices in the administration around open data and digital services.
With VanRoekel’s transfer to USAID, the White House’s top two technology officials have turned over. Todd Park, the former federal CTO, took on a new role in the administration to recruit technology talent.